In 1946, during the filming of one of his first films, Robert Mitchum had to endure Katherine Hepburn making fun of his expressionlessness, the same reproach that critics made him at that time. Over the years, Hepburn would have to swallow his teasing because all of a sudden, the very people who had spoken of blankness began to speak of sobriety in a positive sense, and it was that very sobriety that made Robert Mitchum a star.
His hard, angular face, with his lazy gaze and strong jaw, was perfect for playing tough and cynical guys, skeptical characters who always hid secrets. Simplicity was the characteristic that everyone who worked with him highlighted about Robert Mitchum. He never watched his movies and loved to demystify his craft. His interpretive method was summed up in a few words. Get to the set and work.
Robert Mitchum was born in 1917. His family was very humble and he was soon orphaned. At the age of 15, he left home because, according to what he said, there was no room for everyone at the table. He got on a freight train and left for the southern United States. There he spent some time wandering around and had the most diverse jobs. He was a professional boxer and as such participated in 27 fights. He was also a stevedore, cabaret porter, miner and many other trades where he developed the robust physique that would later help him in his acting career. His discovery for the cinema was accidental. Mitchum was at the time working as a clerk in a shoe store. His sister was a singer and one day she went to buy some shoes accompanied by her representative. He saw him and thought that maybe that kid could have a place in the cinema.
In 1942 he made his debut with a piece of paper in the movie “Border Patrol.” Thus began a long career that would lead him to star in more than 120 films. Robert Mitchum was a studio actor, he made the movies that were sent to him without being able to choose much. His filmography is full of great classics. Titles like “The night of the hunter”, “With him came the scandal”, “Ryan’s daughter”, “Yakuza”, “Goodbye doll” or “The Cape of Terror”. An all-rounder that adapted to any character without causing problems and that did everything. Until sing. He even had a small recording career recording several albums. His favorite genre was calypso.
In 1940, even before turning to film, Robert Mitchum had married. Throughout his life he remained with the same woman, Dorothy, a truly exceptional case in Hollywood. And that Mitchum had a strong magnetism that attracted women. This is what Ava Gardner said about him in her memoirs: “If I could have put him in my bed I would have. I think every girl who ever worked with Bob fell in love with him and I was no exception. Robert Mitchum really hit me. The same thing happened to many girls. I remember I was discussing this with Shirley MacLaine once and we both came to the same conclusion about Bob’s evasive tactics. “
Despite this fidelity, the yellow chronicle falsely related him to numerous lovers, in addition to all kinds of scandals that included drunkenness, fights and a two-month prison sentence for possession of marijuana. Apparently the actor got caught in a raid at the house of some friends and according to his son Bentley it is very likely that he was a trap. That sentence could end his career but thanks to the support that Howard Hughes, then head of the RKO, gave him, he was able to continue working.
In recent years Robert Mitchum was increasingly spacing his performances. He hardly worked and most of his time was devoted to two of his favorite hobbies, composing music and writing poetry. His last film was shot in 1994 and it was a western, one of the actor’s favorite genres: “Dead man”, directed by Jim Jarmush. Shortly before filming this film, Robert Mitchum had visited Spain as a guest at the San Sebastián film festival. There the actor confessed one thing to us: “All the friends I have had in this profession are dead.” And it is that by then Mitchum was already a survivor. One of the last representatives of the golden Hollywood that he himself helped to forge. He died on July 1, 1997 at the age of 79.
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Robert Mitchum, the stone face of classic cinema